Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

Clear singing abloom in Oregon

A busy February as choirs return to the stage, some in preparation for upcoming NWACDA conference.

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Get up you lazy boys and girls,

It’s time you should be dressing

From “Chanticleer” by John Chipman Farrar, US, 1896-1974.

Be still, rooster. Lazy indeed. Shall we be chastened by such a fowl mouth? Give us one good reason to drop-kick our house-jammies to the corner and head out.

Of all the birds from East to West

-that tuneful are and dear;

From “Chanticleer” by Katharine Tynan Hinkson, Ireland, 1859-1931.

From southern climes, alas, they come

-those men of Chanticleer.

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Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

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Okay, now there’s a really good reason to head out for some choral music. The world-renowned San Francisco based ensemble Chanticleer will appear three times in Oregon this month: in Ashland Friday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 pm and Saturday, Feb 19, at 3 pm (through Chamber Music Concerts); and in Portland, on the Friends of Chamber Music series, Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 pm, Kaul Auditorium. Renaissance, contemporary, sacred, pop and just miscellaneously mirthful music–Chanticleer programs have something for every taste in a cappella choral singing. Tickets

Then, mere days after this concert, choral music blossoms in Portland as six more choirs are on stage for the February 25-27 weekend.

Scan this PDX choral calendar screenshot just for the Portand/Salem metro offerings. Yes, it seems a bit chorally congested, but we understand what’s going on in the performance-scheduling world. Many events have been postponed, rescheduled and reconfigured–precipitating entire changes in repertoire, guest artists, and venue. 

The glorious PDX Choral Calendar, by Tom Hard.

Portland State University Director of Choral Activities Ethan Sperry says his students encountered a programming change for several PSU choirs when a Feb. 26 workshop and concert with guest conductor David Morrow of Morehouse College had to be rescheduled for April 3. Instead, you will have the opportunity to hear PSU Chamber Choir’s Northwestern American Choral Directors Association (NWACDA) repertoire at First Christian Church on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 4 pm and again at 7:30 pm. PSU Rose Choir and Thorn Choir will also be performing. Tickets to the concert, titled “My Heart Be Brave,” are available at the PSU box office website.

So, what is NWACDA? Several Oregon and Southwest Washington choirs are invited performers at the biannual NWACDA Conference in Spokane on March 9-12. Choirs are selected based on a blind performance submission; receiving an invitation to sing for colleagues, mentors and fellow students is an honor. This conference and our Pacific Northwest choir participants deserve more attention, so watch for an OAW focus piece in the next few weeks.

But some of the choirs, like PSU Chamber Choir, are performing “at home” prior to the conference appearance. Here are more of those upcoming home concerts:

Pacific University Chamber Singers in Forest Grove, conducted by Scott Tuomi, will present their Spokane repertoire and more in a concert on Fri, Feb. 25 at 7:30 pm. With the theme of “Honoring Black History,” the Chamber Choir will be joined by Portland Community College Rock Creek Choirs to perform Gospel Mass by Robert Ray. Tickets are free by request here.

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Scott Tuomi conducting at Pacific University. Photo by Daryl Browne.
Scott Tuomi conducting at Pacific University. Photo by Daryl Browne.

Conductor Raymund Ocampo is looking forward to conducting the Linn-Benton Community College Chamber Choir in Spokane. You can enjoy the choir’s conference repertoire by linking to their live stream home event on Friday, Mar. 4 at 7:30 pm.  

Portland’s Resonance Ensemble will appear at NWACDA, where conductor Katherine FitzGibbon and singers will collaborate with two other choirs to perform the Pan-Latin American Premiere of Abya Yala Choral Suite by Freddy Vilches, co-commissioned with ACDA. A Portland performance of this work is the second concert in Resonance’s 2021-22 Season, “Reclaim.” You can purchase tickets to hear them on Sat. March 5 and Sun. March 6, at Cerimon House, Portland.

From southwest Washington, Chor Anno and Camas High School Yelling Choir are select performers. Chor Anno, who will break with their named tradition of singing only one concert a year, takes the stage in Spokane but has no local concert scheduled. Yelling Choir, which promises to bring a mind-blowing choral experience to NWACDA, has no announced home concert plans, but Director Maxx Katz invites you to help fund their conference appearance. Completing the Portland contingent is Pacific Youth Choir who are appearing with the Oregon Symphony for “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” on Sunday, Mar. 6–but again, no NWACDA repertoire concert has been announced.

Congratulations choirs. More coming soon on this highly anticipated six-state (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY) choral event.

Elsewhere in Oregon

In Bend, one Tower Theater event is an example of a positive programming pivot. The 5th Annual A Cappella Festival, a showcase for high school and collegiate small a cappella ensembles, was canceled. But the scheduled headliners, The Filharmonic, will perform with opening group Aca-word on Saturday, Feb 26, at 7:30 pm. Deke Sharon, a cappella ensemble guru–originally scheduled to work with participating ensembles–will offer a warm welcome virtually. Lemons to lemonade. The rescheduled-for-2023 A Cappella Festival is already on the calendar for next Feb. 17-18. Take a listen to the vibrant tone and vocal percussion of The Filharmonic. And purchase Tower Theater event tickets here.

On Saturday, February 26, at 3:00 pm Salem welcomes the Willamette Master Chorus back to the live stage. The “Songs of Gratitude” concert is free, but you can reserve your general seating at Willamette University’s Hudson Hall. WMC is also generously offering this concert virtually, continuing to bring beautiful music to those who cannot physically attend. The virtual concert is on Sunday, February 27. Reservations here.

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There exists some lovely choral singing in film music, and not just featured songs. Eugene Concert Choir is offering choral movie music for audiences still growing, all grown-up, or somewhere in between. Saturday, Feb. 26, at 2:30 is “Movie Magic for Kids!” and Sunday, Feb. 27, at 2:30 is “The Magic of Movie Music.” Both concerts are at Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, in Eugene. 

Attendance at all concerts requires proof of vaccination or negative tests, and masks are required.

But wait, that’s not all

Another glance at the PDX choral calendar will tell you there are a few more concerts worthy of mention. Three theme-focused concerts in the following weeks will take you to near and distant lands: from Estonia and a prodigious piece by Arvo Pärt (Cappella Romana); to vocal colors of emerald and tartan and stories young and old from Ireland and Scotland (Choral Arts Ensemble); to Portland indigenous artists and the world premiere vision of Abya Yala through which indigenous peoples reclaim their name and ancestral integrity (Resonance and Matices Latin Ensemble). 

Journey into those concerts in the next-week’s choral watch.

With hope for clear singing ahead for all.

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Daryl Browne is a music educator, alto, flutist and writer who lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

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